Overload and recovery is the first principle of training. You need to overload the specific system and then after it recovers it comes back stronger. There are many different ways to train and many different programs to choose from it is hard to know which one is best. First of all you need to try different things to find out what works best for you. Bill Rogers pointed out in one of his running books that he and Frank Shorter reached similar personal best times in the marathon with almost opposite approaches. Frank Shorter trained less but built his training on interval work. Bill Rogers ran many many miles. Almost any training program works for some people but there isn’t one training program that works for everyone. The most talented athletes do well under any training program because they have talent, but if they trained the best way for them, they would be even better. After two weeks on a program you should start to get an idea if it is working; four weeks you will know. If something isn’t working, change it.
Consistency is important because your body can’t adapt to things you don’t do consistently. Change is also important. If you are adapted to what you are doing you need to change it slightly to reach that overload. If you overload a little you recover quickly. If you overload a lot it takes longer to recover. If you are not fully recovered you overload more quickly. You need to take days off for full recovery eventually. It is confusing but very simple. You need to train hard, you need to train a lot and you need to back off and take it easy. It is all just a matter of when to do it. This is where your training plan comes in. Personally I plan my hardest weeks and build towards them gradually by how I feel. I’ll hit that hardest week and then have to back off. I’ll rebuild and hit the hardest week again and again until that is my typical training week. Then it is usually time for my big race of the year and I get to take a bit of a break before and after.
Your training plan is a guide but you don’t blindly follow it. You need to watch yourself. You shouldn’t know exactly what you are going to do until the day you are to do it. You need to train hardest when you feel good and back off when you feel bad. Check your resting heart rate in beats per minute every morning. If it is up by more than 5 back off. If it takes more than two days to recover from a workout you are training too hard and need to go back to doing easier base training for a while. I see many cyclist who need to rebuild mid season with a week off and then a couple weeks of slow steady riding.
If you are a hard trainer, training less often is a good idea. If you train easier, you can train more often. Your training not only needs to fit your life but also it must suit your personality. If you are mellow and like to just ride, do it. If you like to lay it on the line and go fast do that but make sure you recover. Chances are the training you enjoy the most is best for you and you enjoy it because it suits your personality and your physiology which is more connected than anyone realizes.
I think it is also very important to believe in your plan because if you don’t believe it won't get you the results you want you will never stick to it. Take your plans off the Internet and from books but factor in yourself and your life. If a program doesn’t fit with what you think is best adapt it. You are in control of what you do. A coach is good because they have experience and can see signs before you can. There have been days when Glauco has told me how I feel just by looking at me and he was right. A good coach will ask you as many things as he will tell you and a good coach will have you do what is best for you. A good coach gets to know you and is honest with you. If you coach yourself, you need to get to know your body and you need to be honest with yourself.